Nature Therapy

Early spring before the snow starts melting I start looking forward to gardening. Being outside, tending to my flower and vegetable garden gives me so much satisfaction. My harvest is even more thrilling, it is so exciting to eat what I grew myself. I do not calculate the time spent tilling and the dollars put in the ground. Nope, I focus on how relaxing it is. My husband might disagree initially as he is the one that actually put in the raised beds, wheeled in the soil and manure, plus other heavy lifting, but he appreciates the green gardens in the end as well.

I have always enjoyed being on trails, like the Birchwood Forest. Walking through the woods invigorates me. Being under the green canopy, hearing the stillness of the trees, earthy scents, and the birds trilling is so peaceful.  Recently I have discovered there are words that define that feeling. The Germans call it Waldeinsamkeit, translating to the feeling of having solitude or being spiritual in the woods. In Japan its called shinrin-yoku, which literally means forest bathing. It is taking the forest in through your senses.  It is not vigorous hiking, but taking a gentle stroll, and connecting to nature via senses, touch, smell, hearing and sight. There are organizations that offer forest meditation classes. Further there exists an international group called the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy.

Whatever the name, there are various studies to prove that walks in nature decrease anxiety, negative feelings, lower heart and blood pressure, and boost the immune system. It is a reminder to get outdoors again. Our ancestors were correct to head to the seaside or country when someone was feeling poorly. Today more than 50% live in urban areas and it is harder to unplug from electronic devices and connect with nature instead.

We have been having warmer days. You will find me in a waldeinsamkeit state or having a shinrin-yoku.  Let us get outside and enjoy nature‚Äôs therapy.

Manjit Athwal
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